Tacoma, Washington Next Target For Paid Sick Days

A group of more than 30 business owners, unions, workers, and activists calling themselves “Healthy Tacoma” are trying to build support for a potential city ordinance guaranteeing workers paid sick days. The idea has support from two city council members.

So far the proposal would require businesses with more than 10 employees to provide an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a cap at 40 hours for smaller firms and larger caps for bigger companies. The highest would be a 108-hour cap for those with more than 250 workers.

The plan is to either have the city council or voters approve a bill soon. A poll found that nearly two-thirds of the city’s likely voters support the proposed law. Meanwhile, four in ten voters say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports it, showing that lawmakers stand to gain by backing a bill.

According to Healthy Tacoma, two out of five of the city’s workers don’t have access to paid time off for an illness or if a family member gets sick, which amounts to about 41,000 people. A report from the Economic Opportunity Institute found that the lack of paid sick days is disproportionately felt by those who work in retail, food services, and health services.


Tacoma is just the latest in a variety of fights to enact paid sick leave. The mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey plans to introduce a bill soon, and there are statewide pushes in New Jersey and Massachusetts. New York City; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC; and the state of Connecticut have already passed such laws.

But at the same time, a wave of so-called preemption bills, which block the ability to enact paid sick days legislation before it can even be introduced, is being proposed and enacted across the country. Such laws have cropped up in at least 14 different state legislatures and enacted in nine: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

While the proponents of these bills claim that paid sick days would harm businesses with high costs, evidence points to the opposite. San Francisco’s law has had little negative impact, enjoys strong business support, and even spurred job growth. Connecticut’s has come with little cost to business and has huge potential upsides. Washington, DC’s similarly has had no negative effect on business. On the other hand, the lost productivity thanks to sick workers who can’t take time off costs the average employer $225 per worker a year.